SEC allays crypto furore

SEC allays crypto furore

Regulator says draft to gauge opinions

The bitcoin price has been hitting new all-time highs since the beginning of the year. Reuters
The bitcoin price has been hitting new all-time highs since the beginning of the year. Reuters

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is backing off its draft plan to require a 1-million-baht minimum annual income and other requirements for cryptocurrency investors, noting the draft was just meant to test public sentiment from stakeholders.

A live talk about the hearing on the SEC's Facebook page will be rescheduled to tomorrow -- three weeks earlier than the original schedule on March 24 -- after the draft sparked a huge wave of public criticism within a few hours of its announcement.

The proposal drew backlash for its excessively high standards for crypto traders, which would effectively bar people with low or middle incomes and trading experience from investing in cryptocurrencies.

In response to the public furore, Ruenvadee Suwanmongkol, secretary-general of the SEC, said the criteria were proposed just to gauge public opinion, a normal protocol when drafting new regulations, and can still be modified in accordance with the opinions of stakeholders.

"I proposed the criteria that many considered too tough to prompt people to express their opinions on the matter and did not intend to say these are the exact qualifications that will be implemented," she said.

She insisted that the 1-million-baht annual income is not the minimum fund required for crypto investment as some traders misunderstood.

The bitcoin price has been hitting new all-time highs since the beginning of the year, attracting many inexperienced investors to the market.

The influx of investors and spike in trading activities caused several system crashes in Bitkub, the biggest local digital exchange, leading it to temporarily close for maintenance and in effect leaving many investors stuck in the know your customer process.

The cryptocurrency market in Thailand has transformed drastically since 2018 when the Digital Assets Decree was first enacted.

According to the SEC, people who are investing in cryptocurrencies are mostly new investors who are not well-informed and may not be ready to invest in high-risk, highly volatile assets.

"If the SEC just stands by and does nothing, it would be totally our responsibility if investors lose on cryptocurrency," she said.

The SEC also reportedly had a dinner talk with representatives from local digital exchanges last Friday, which gave the signal the regulator was still open to opinions.

The regulator did not reveal the number of respondents in the public hearing survey, claiming four days are too short to make any conclusion.

The Facebook live hearing tomorrow will run from 5-6.30pm, and on March 24 before the survey closes on March 27.

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